Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Travels with Carly

For the past four years, I have driven from my home in Arizona to Minnesota to visit family and friends. It's a three-day, two-night drive through the middle of our country, and I see an awful lot of flat land. I generally go in the fall, usually October. This year, I scheduled my trip for November due to various reasons. It's a month later than when I normally take to the road, and conditions are different. Weather is riskier (no one wants to be caught in a blizzard on the Great Plains) and it's colder. That means no leisurely lunch breaks at rest areas and dog "potty" breaks are fast and furious.

If the weather cooperates, it's a fantastic trip. I load my Itouch with audiobooks, music, and podcasts (NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" is a favorite). I have three days to relax, bond with my dog, and anticipate seeing Mom, Dad, brothers Rick, Jeff, their kids, their kids' kids, my college girlfriends, and who knows who else--someone always pops out of the woodwork from my youth. I also get a chance to see my dear friend Ellen, in Kansas. I spend one of my travel nights with her on the way, and two nights with her on the return trip, spending an extra day seeing her world, shopping, hitting yarn and thrift stores, and having a great time.

I also like to drive because I can pack whatever I want, I'm not relegated to one suitcase. Good thing! I usually have Christmas presents (heavy canned goods, anyone???), plus there's the mandatory multiple knitting projects, my work laptop for keeping on top of work projects, and stuff for the dog, of course. Bedding, blankets for covering other people's sofas, food, treats, toys, chewies, poop bags, more treats, water, dishes, etc. etc. etc. Here's what went into my car on November 6:

Leaving Arizona: New Mexico "Badlands" and Texas Shortgrass Prairie

This year, I was a bit nervous to drive across country in November. My fears were justified when I woke up to this the morning I left:

By the time I left, this snowstorm was moving east rapidly from the north-central part of Arizona. Interstate 17 south of Flagstaff had been shut down. Interstate 40 surrounding Flagstaff was having problems. And it was moving in my direction. I grabbed a quick breakfast and got out the door just as the flakes were really starting to come down. Bruce said that I would likely get out of the whole system quickly and be ahead of it, so don't worry. I did, though, but I should've listened to my husband. After a 15-minute drive to Show Low, and then heading east on Hwy. 60, it was only a few minutes until the clouds parted, the angels sang, and all was well with the world:

Tune up the angel's choir: Hallelujah! Sun!!
Relief. I could now start in on my chosen audiobook, selected specifically for this roadtrip: "Thereby Hangs A Tail: A Chet and Bernie Mystery." Chet and Bernie run a detective agency; Bernie is the detective, and Chet is his dog. The story is written by Chet. Even Carly paid attention for the first bit.

Our first major milestone was getting to El Malpais National Conservation Area, probably the most scenic spot along the entire route. This landscape of weathered sandstone and black volcanic rock with spindly trees growing out of it is in fact a national public recreation area. The area's Visitor Center also has the first public restroom on the journey, so it is a must-do stop. The Visitor Center has a little nature trail where Carly also has a chance to deploy her morning's treats, if you know what I mean. A few photos of El Malpais:
Sandstone cliffs

Black volcanic rocks with plants figuring out
a way to survive; amazing stuff.

"The Window,"an arch in the making

Well, the most scenic area on the route is left behind after the first 3-hour leg of the journey. Flat land ahead. That's OK, though, because when I return home weeks later, when I get to El Malpais, I know I only have three hours driving left.

I pass through Albuquerque on Interstate 40. ABQ is a very cool city located in the Rio Grand River valley under the Sandia Mountains. If I had the time, I'd make a stop, but I have to make it to Dalhart, TX by dark. So I forge on ahead, through Santa Rosa, and then Tucumcari, where I get off the interstate onto the two-lane Hwy. 54. I will be on Hwy. 54 for about two hours on Day 1 and almost all day minus an hour or so on Day 2. I make it to Dalhart, TX on schedule, and visit another must-stop in downtown Dalhart just prior to reaching the Super 8 (which takes dogs). This stop is just a small park, but it's a nice little walk for Carly prior to being holed up in a hotel room. It also has this garden that is managed by the Dalhart gardening club who call themselves the "Petal Pushers." It is too cute to pass up:

Not the best time of year to see it in full bloom,
but it looks well-tended and loved.
I don't care how good your dog might be, and mine is pretty good, but nights in hotels when you have a dog are generally nights where you don't sleep very well. Little growls that wake you up when someone walks down the hall, schlepping the collar and leash on the dog, and shoes, hat, coat, and mittens on me when the dog needs to go out, all that makes for an uneasy night.

It Keeps Raining

But the sun rises as it always does. At least it's supposed to, unless it's raining out. And, alas, I awoke to rain for my second day on the road:

Rats. And so it went, all day long:

Rain is better than snow, though. I repeated that to myself, and Carly, often that day. So Day 2 I drive from Dalhart to Emporia, Kansas (Ellen's house), pretty much on this two-lane highway through the upper corner of Texas, the short "stick" part of Oklahoma, and western/central Kansas. The scenery looks like this the entire reach of this highway:

Even "Thereby Hangs a Tail" ceases to interest Carly. She soon becomes a slug:

I wish I could nap while driving...

To stay awake, I have a favorite stopping point in Pratt, Kansas, which I generally arrive around lunchtime on Day 2. I found a hidden gem of a town park two years ago. It's a large park with your typical ballfield or two, but what makes this park a wonderful stopping place is its large expanse of an open grassy area interspersed with various trees such as large oaks, maples, and some sort of cedar (introduced??) that on Day 2 in the rain glowed a brilliant rust. I lucked out and arrived during a period of about 30 minutes when the rain stopped, and managed to get a decent walk in for Carly. After that, it started to rain again, so I grabbed my lunch and ate in the car.

The Flint Hills

I finally reach Witchita, and take off onto the Interstate 35 tollroad, a very nice, clean highway. About an hour to go to reach Emporia and Ellen! Almost right away after Witchita, I enter the Flint Hills region of Kansas. The Flint Hills (more information can be found here) are what National Geographic describes as "the last great swath of tallgrass prairie in the nation." It is a sublime, beautiful landscape; rolling hills that stretch for what appears to be miles. In the fall, the grass turns various hues of gold and rust, with some remaining greenery interspersed. I was able to shoot a few pictures through the rain:

After spending the night catching up with Ellen, eating Chinese food, and settling Carly onto Ellen's sofa, all while the rain continues to come down, we wake up to a beautiful, clear blue sky. Whew. The day is looking bright, especially after our morning Starbucks visit. I am now driving on Interstate 35 all the way to Austin, MN, an hour away from home. The drive takes me through what I consider the true Midwest. Kansas, Kansas City, a bit of Missouri, Iowa, and southern Minnesota.

Tricky, Tricky Iowa

It was sunny; not a cloud in the sky. It was cold, though, too, which continued to minimize opportunities to enjoy pretty rest stops. The storm that followed me on Day 2 passed through and dumped a bit of snow in Iowa, but no big deal to me. I had sun the entire day. I was excited; last day on the road, I'll be seeing my parents at the end of this day, Chet and Bernie's mystery was getting interesting, and weather conditions were positive. Plus, I was in the Midwest, the region of "really really nice people." My original 'hood; I was raised in the land of "Minnesota Nice."

The epitome of my stereotype is represented in Iowa; or so I thought. Hah. Here is a heads-up when you travel through Iowa: Buy super unleaded gas. Why? Well, here we go.

I needed gas south of Des Moines. An "Iowa Welcome Center" appeared on the horizon, and there was one of those large, really tall gas station signs that read "$3.31/gal," which was the going rate at the time, so I pulled over. Along with gas, there was this Amish gift shop (the nicest of the nice midwest people, I would think!), a replica of an Amish school, some pumpkins, some metal Mom and apple pie, but I would consider pumpkins, cows, and Amish things in Iowa to be along the same lines. I stopped at the Amish place first, peeked inside to find baskets, jellies, and the like, took Carly on a walk through the rapidly melting snow, and took a few shots:

And then...pulled into the Iowa Welcome Center gas station. Without even looking (and THIS is what tricky, tricky Iowa people expect you to do), I entered my credit card, opened my gas cap, pulled out the gas pumper unit, and blindly selected the lowest octane gas, regular unleaded, right? WELL!!!! It was only when I started pumping that I noticed I was being charged $3.46, a full 15 cents more per gallon. Huh?????

It was then that I saw that the super unleaded was $3.31. I looked at the tall highway sign attracting unsuspecting, trusting highway travelers, and sure enough, in tiny letters under the price, was "Super Unl" tacked on the bottom. What a crock! I couldn't believe it! Playing on the psychology of drivers who need gas and just want to get back onto the road--they fully expect you to do what I did, mindlessly stick in your card, pick what you would normally think is the cheapest gas, and go forth and fill your tank. And, when you find out you were paying MORE for regular unleaded, you would just grumble a bit but suck it up and fill up anyway because you need gas and don't want to stop again. Well...not me.

I put in $10.00 and left. That got me through Des Moines. I stopped again just north of Des Moines, and sure enough, the same thing. So...I was ready and picked super unleaded.

Iowa, of all places. I am shocked and dismayed. The blinders are off. Iowa is just as conniving as the rest of us.

Minnesota: Home Turf

Glad to leave the tricksters in Iowa behind, I stopped at the first Minnesota rest stop. It was still cold, but I managed to get a short walk in for Carly.

I entered Minnesota farm country. It is still farm country, but changes have taken place. I mostly look forward to seeing the old historic barns, which are disappearing across many Midwest landscapes. I love the old barns, and am always so appreciative of the farmers that take care of these relics from the past and keep their farms clean and tidy to boot. However, you can't get away from progress, and Minnesota farm country is no different. Wind farms pepper the landscape along Interstate 90. Seeing enormous windmills next to century-old barns just blows me away, but I think of how important it is to figure out new energy resources. I can't complain.

I arrive at my parents' home in Rochester just in time for happy hour. Hugs all around, pats to the dog, and before I could even start to unload all my stuff, wine is served. Happy hour at my parents' house consists of wine, snacks, and Judge Judy. Carly gets a chewie, and we relax and start to unwind. The perfect finish to a long drive!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm a canning freak!

There are two reasons that I haven't done alot of blog posts lately. First is, my life isn't all that exciting at this point so there's not much to write about, and the second reason is that I can't stop canning! So it's either: write a bunch of blog posts on canning (snooze), or hang up the blog for awhile. I decided that I could do a bit of both; I didn't blog last weekend because all I did was can, and it turns out all I did this weekend is can, too, but I just have to write about it! It's those darn green tomatoes, really, that have taken me completely by surprise, something totally unexpected in the grand scheme of my summer, our gardening effort, and life in general.

In August, when we realized that there were going to be lots (and I mean LOTS!!!) of tomatoes that simply were not going to ripen before the freeze came, I was so disappointed. I wanted ripe tomatoes, darn it (and, turns out, we have more than enough of those, too). But now, I know that there will always be a spot in our garden that I will keep especially for late-growing tomatoes, because I became enamored by them a few weeks ago when I made green tomato salsa verde (see my previous blog post). My salsa verde seems to be a hit, and the green tomato-apple chutney I also made from a recipe I found on the web is simply and elegantly delicious.

Last Saturday, I spent the entire day, from 7:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m., in the kitchen canning more green tomato salsa and trying out the chutney. It's the preparation of the ingredients and the time it takes to complete the canning bath process that is so time-consuming, but I ended up with pints and half-pints of both, as well as those cute little 4-oz jars of chutney. And it took a bunch of tomatoes, let me tell you.

So when Bruce called me at my office Friday to tell me he picked the last of the green tomatoes, I knew I had to make a run to the store to pick up some fixings to can some more this weekend. He said he had "nearly a box full" of green tomatoes, but I had no idea what size box (shoe box? bigger?). I knew we had a number of tomatoes on the vine, but I figured there was only enough for one batch of something. I thought I'd focus on the salsa, so I picked up ingredients for that at the store. This errand-running included hitting more than one place to find more jars. I'm finding out that not many stores have jars in stock by late October, but I found them at Ace.

Turns out it was a BIG box. Oh my. Definitely way too many tomatoes for just salsa, so more chutney had to be made. Back to the store(s); everything for more salsa and for a batch of chutney as well. Oh, and more jars. 7:00 p.m. on a Friday night and I'm running around picking up jars and apples at the store.

As a result, today, I was in the kitchen making more salsa verde and chutney. I have to say, I am pretty pround of myself! And, as a result of the last two Saturdays of canning, plus past canning weekends, we have lots of jars full of garden goodies. We've given a number of jars away as gifts, we've eaten a couple jars of pickles, one of salsa...but all told as of right now, here is what is on our dining room table:

Pickles: 10 quarts, 5 pints

Dilly beans: 15 pints

Zucchini relish: 18 half-pints

Chutney: 3 pints, 18 half-pints, 14 12-oz jars, and 22 4-oz jars

Salsa: 23 pints, 9 half-pints, 10 12-oz jars

No dining room table is complete unless you have a
furminator next to the salt and pepper shaker...

That's where it stands. I am enamored with canning, and am thrilled that we have food from our summer to share and to eat in the dark depths of winter.

Since I provided the salsa verde recipe in a previous post, why not post the chutney recipe. The original recipe, found on the web and provided by "Gayla" (thank you, whoever you are), called for a relatively small batch of tomatoes, whereas I had a ton. So I at least tripled it, but really, I have no idea of the quantities, I throw them all together until it looks and tastes right, and then add a bunch of apple cider vinegar to make sure it's acidic enough for canning. But you can also make this recipe in a small batch a saucepan and serve it with one meal and keep the remainder in the fridge for awhile, no canning involved:

Green Tomato - Apple Chutney, from "Gayla":

Green tomatoes, chopped
An equal amount of good tart cooking apples, I use Granny Smiths and a big Honey Crisp, chopped
Shallots, diced
Garlic, minced
Ginger, recipe calls for fresh, minced, but I just used the stuff in a jar, so sue me
Raisins (I used a mix of regular, golden, and I also added currants, and in one batch I added some chopped dates I had on hand)
Brown sugar to taste
Hot peppers; I used a half-can of jalapenos per batch, but the batch filled up a large mixing bowl
Salt to taste
Apple cider vinegar

Chop the tomatoes and let them sit over a strainer to drain some of their juices. You may not need to do this if you're just making a stovetop version, but for canning, I wanted to add more vinegar to get the acidity up, but not have it too liquidy, so I drained the tomatoes for a couple hours.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the chopped apples, shallots, garlic, ginger, raisins, brown sugar, salt (not much) and hot pepper (don't go heavy on the hot pepper, you just want a bit of a tang). Mix well. Pour into a saucepan, and add cider vinegar until you get a good consistency. For canning, I tend to add quite a bit so there's enough liquid in the jars to reach the top of the solid food. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Either serve as is, or do your canning, and put jars in a canning bath at least 15 minutes (where I am, at 7000 feet elevation, I boil in a bath for more than 30 minutes).

I don't have a picture of the chutney, but the picture of the salsa in my previous entry looks alot like it, only there are brown and gold raisins peeking through. It is simply divine with pork, and would be equally good with grilled chicken. And, I think it'd be great as an ice cream topping, or as a topping for plain Greek yogurt??? I'm open to ideas...I have enough to try it on just about anything!!!

I promise, no more canning posts for the rest of the season, I am done! Next year, though, I'll be looking for new recipes and will likely bore you all again with more canning stories. Thanks for bearing with me!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Productions

It's been a short summer; we're already deep into fall, and I don't know where it all went. Three more weeks until November? Say it ain't so!!! But when I look at what I have been creating with my own two little paws over the past six weeks, I guess you could say it's been a productive season for me. So, this is a relatively short blog entry as I'll mostly be recording, for posterity, a few hand-made creations that define the season. 
Starting at the top, about 3 weeks ago, we picked our first carrot from our garden. It was lovely:

The rest of our carrots since then have been these two- to three-pronged genetic mutants. They taste good but look really weird. I can deal with that. What both Bruce and I can barely deal with, though, is looking at the plethora--dozens upon dozens--of green tomatoes on the vine, knowing every day is one day closer until THE FIRST FREEZE.

Which happened about two weeks before we thought it would. That means it happened this past week, the first week of October. We were given plenty of weather warnings. Mentally I wasn't ready, but I had to suck it up. Mother Nature waits for no one.

Here are our tomatoes outnumbering our
Co-op squash and garlic
First, it was time to pick most of our crop. Cucumbers, squash, green beans, and the most ripe tomatoes had to be harvested. Here is a sampling of just some of the tomatoes we got before the freeze, and yes, we left dozens of greenies on the vine. Frustrated and a bit chagrined, we knew that after this freezing storm system passed, it was going to warm back up to the balmy seventies. So, we only picked the ripest tomatoes, hoping to squeak by the predicted three nights of below-freezing temperatures by wrapping our green lovelies in blankets, sheets, and tarps. 

With more cukes, squash, and green beans, I went through the canning process again, making 12 more pints of dilly beans, 12 half-pints of zucchini relish, and this time, 12 QUARTS (not pints!) of pickles. Here is my second batch of canned goods, and I thank my friend and neighbor Julie (Sky Island Woman) for helping me out this time. I think I did my mother-in-law proud:

In the meantime during evenings and the few minutes I could capture on weekends, I also spent time knitting and crocheting, eventually making a crocheted cotton shawl:

And, with the varied green yarn I dyed this past summer (entry here), a smaller triangular lace scarf:

Then, we waited for the freeze. Three nights ago it got down to 25 degrees. The results of wrapping, tarping, and blanketing our tomatoes (and our lettuce) were mixed. The lettuce was fine. Some tops of the tomato plants froze, some tomatoes got freezer-skin, but others looked okay. It scared me enough to realize I had to pick as many green tomatoes as possible. What does one do with several pounds of green tomatoes? I know you can let them ripen by boxing them up and leaving them in a cool, dry place, but that just didn't appeal to me.

Off to the web to find some green tomato recipes, preferably for canning. Score! Green tomato salsa verde. I merged a few recipes together, and came up with mine:

Sue's Green Tomato Salsa Verde

"X" pounds of green tomatoes (I'm guessing 3 to 4?), cored and sliced into quarters; it filled a large mixing bowl
"Y" green chiles, probably about 8 medium to large chiles
A few cans of store-bought green chiles to add
One small can of diced jalapenos
2 onions, chopped
2 heads (not cloves, use alot!!!) garlic
1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
Cumin to taste
Salt to taste
3/4-Cup lime juice
1/4-Cup lemon juice
1/3 C. white sugar
1/4 C. or a bit less brown sugar
1/2 C. white distilled vinegar

Place cored, quartered tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut-side up. Spray with oil, and roast for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Cut and de-seed the green chiles, lay cut side down (skin side up), and broil for several minutes until skin is blackened. When the chiles cool a bit, peel the skin off. Prep the cilantro, peel a bunch of garlic, and peel the skin/ends off the onion and chop into large segments.

Using a food processor, process onions, garlic, roasted tomatoes, cilantro, and chiles until you're happy with the consistency. Place in a large bowl. I didn't think I had enough chiles, and my fresh ones were pretty mild, so I added three cans of diced green chiles and one small can of jalapenos (both store bought). Add cumin, salt, lime and lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar and stir well. Taste and add seasonings as you see fit. Set over stove, bring to a boil, and cook a few minutes as you prepare your canning jars. Fill jars, secure the lids, and boil in a water bath for 20 minutes.

There are still more green tomatoes on the vine. In a few days, I'll pick another batch, and this time I'll be making "Green Tomato Chutney" with apples, raisins, ginger, and some spices. I'll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, preparations for winter begin. Summer clothes get moved to the back of the closet, winter ones to the front. Hats, mittens, and scarves are moved to front and center in our coat closet. My next knitting projects are determined: I think I'll start my first sweater, and I need to finish a hat and some mittens from last year. The pellet stove gets turned on and warms our house in the mornings and evenings. My corn bags (if you know what a corn bag is, you know how great they are) are pulled out and are microwaved nightly to heat my bed.

This is all on top of the re-model going on in this house. A new garage is being built, and the old garage, pantry, and laundry area will be transformed into a new pantry, an enclosed laundry area, and a third bedroom complete with new bathroom and a place to corral all my crafty goodies (yarn, beads, and oh, so much more). Days of packing, moving stuff, cleaning things out, and general chaos will be in store for us very, very soon. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Laura, me, a canyon, and Mary

When you are an Arizona resident, one of the greatest things to do is show someone Grand Canyon for their first time. It's ours. We're proud of it. Despite it being called at times "Arizona's little erosion problem," it always either tops the list, or is in at least the top two, of Earth's natural wonders. And it's here, and we like showing it off.

Over the years, I have encouraged friends and family to visit our state and see Grand Canyon. Some have obliged. Others will follow I'm sure. A month or so ago, I received an e-mail from Laura, my college roommate over 25 years ago. She is an integral part of my close, loving, and dear college friends with whom I have remained in touch after lo these many years. She had some work stuff to do in Las Vegas, had a free weekend in between job obligations, and wondered if she could visit me in Arizona and see Grand Canyon. A dream come true for us Arizonans.

Right around that same time, Bruce and I received this promotional free outdoor travel-related magazine called "Unboundaries" or some such thing, a USA Today publication. What do you know, there was an article about Mary Colter and her architectural designs, focusing on what she accomplished in Grand Canyon. Now, I had been to the canyon several times by now, and had seen some of her designs, but I hadn't really focused on her as a person and as an architect. Mary was truly a fascinating person.

Born in the mid-1800's, she became a professional architect by the late 1880's or so, itself an amazing feat for women in the late 19th century. Studying along with Frank Lloyd Wright, or at least peripherally involved in Frank's "aura," She was hired by the Fred Harvey Company, the company Fred Harvey started that did whatever was needed to attract and lure easterners to our western National Parks via our railroads. Mary is THE conceptual brain behind what's now called "National Park Rustic." Really outstanding for their time and place, Mary's designs were intended to use local materials and fit into the natural landscape, being as unobtrusive as possible, yet still maintaining a unique character all their own. Her designs at Grand Canyon and elsewhere continue to fascinate. Today, we intuitively see the aesthetic value in buildings that are integrated into their surrounding landscape, but this was a new concept for most, and Mary was one of the visionaries.

So Laura and I, and my dog Carly, met up in Williams Friday night. Encamped in our room at the Best Western, I lamented the fact I forgot to bring along that article about Mary Colter. No problem, Laura pulls out her Ipad and proceeds to study up on Mary. We both decide she would have been a great addition to our college girlfriend network, as she seemed strong, competent, creative, and all-around brilliant, just like us. We also decided that we wanted to see as much of Mary's designs as possible the next day.

September in northern Arizona is incredible, and we woke to a sparkling, cool day that promised to maybe hit a high of 78 degrees. Perfect. After dropping Carly off at a "pet resort" (much to Carly's absolute and utter despair), we made it to the Canyon by 8:00 a.m. The first thing we had to do is simply find the edge of the Canyon to view it, which in itself is something that surprises most first-time visitors. Really, there's no big, imposing thing you see as you get close. It's just high desert, then some pine trees, a National Park entrance gate (still no Canyon), parking lots, buildings, walkways (still no Canyon), and then finally, there it is, dropping below your feet, its immensity mind-boggling. Once you get over the initial awe, you start thinking things like "What was Evil Knevil thinking?" or "I can almost see how people can fall off..." The camera comes out, and the first-time vistor's initial reaction after taking a bunch of shots is: "there's no way I can capture this." Yes. We know. There's no way. And yet we continue to try.

After our initial view, we made our day's plans. First, go east to the Desert Watchtower, a Mary Colter fan favorite. Seen in lots of photographs, this tower looks much older than it really is. Yes, it's old, but it's made to look more like pre-historic ruins, and indeed, Mary even constructed the thing with deliberate cracks and crevices to make it look old. It is a totally amazing piece of work. 
We spend quite a bit of time there. The tower itself has this inner circular staircase that winds up the inside of the tower, with three levels you can get off the staircase and move around. The walkways on these levels are also circular, only about 8-10 feet wide, so you can peek over the side and look down. There is something to look at on every square foot of this building. The walls are decorated in Hopi and Anasazi petroglyph-type designs. The ceiling is painted with such designs as well. Mary hired Hopi and other Native Americans to create this artwork. The windows are lined in wood and come in several shapes, placed strategically to provide views of the surrounding landscape. It was a great introduction to the way Mary worked.
Laura and part of the ceiling
The floors of the Watchtower

Rawhide-coated bannisters;
how old is this rawhide?

Designs on the Watchtower walls
After the Watchtower, we made a few scenic-view stops, including one where we ate our lunch overlooking the Canyon, and eventually ended up in South Village, the place with more of Mary's designs--and LOTS and LOTS of people. Peeps, as I call them. One of the peeps took our picture at our lunch stop:

One of our first stops in South Village was Mary's "Hopi House," a squat, square building constructed to mimic homes found on the Hopi reservation to the north. The Hopi House was designed to be a gift store, which it remains today. At the time of its construction, however, Hopi artisans actually lived in the building and created their wares for tourists right there. Jewelry, rugs, pottery--all are still for sale at the Hopi House, and the goods are truly native-made. Even Albert Einstein visited the Hopi House, and I can prove it.
The Hopi House
Einstein at the Hopi House in a headdress

Rugs and pottery for sale at Hopi House; each rug
has a photo of its weaver as well as the price ($1,950.00
for this one)
The ceiling at Hopi House; logs with matted
sticks and brush. These pieces are the originals; circa 1900
After the Hopi House, it was time to visit El Tovar, one of the guest lodges at the Canyon. This building was not designed by Mary; rather by an architect that decided to borrow styles from Swiss chalets and Norwegian villas. So, alas, it is lovely, but stands out as much as Mary's designs do not. But it had cocktail lounge, and we felt it was time for a prickly-pear margarita on its covered deck. We relaxed, feet up, enjoying the scenery. Did a bit of people-watching, mostly noticing people's shoes. Who would come to the Canyon in 6" spiky heels? Someone did. Flip-flops (on the trail???). Check. Native American dancing? Check.
Laura on the right

A little wobbly after our margs, we visited Bright Angel Lodge, checking off another Mary design on our list. This lodge was designed to provide moderately-priced accommodations for visitors. One of the standout structures in the entire park is here in the History Room of Bright Angel Lodge. It is, simply, a fireplace. But Mary went all out. Designed to mimic the geology of Grand Canyon, the fireplace is layered from bottom to top with rocks found at the Canyon's different strata. Rocks were brought up from all levels by the fireplace's builders, and Mary was extremely focused on not only getting the proportions correct, she selected one side canyon to copy, including that canyon's fault lines; the fireplace's rocks, then, are tilted at the same angle as these fault lines. It's nuts. As the guy who was manning that room said, "I'd hate to be the schmucks who worked for her," meaning that her "attention to detail" most likely would drive anyone crazy. That room also gave visitors a history of Fred Harvey and the Fred Harvey Company. It appears that Fred and Mary never met; he died in 1901, Mary was hired by the Company in 1902. However, I think they would've agreed on many things: excellence in your work, everything to perfection.
Fireplace with geologic copy of the Canyon

Fault lines represented

One of the lodge's decorations;
history described below:
We also visited Lookout Studio, a Mary design, and marveled at how this stone house (Kaibab Formation limestone) seemingly teeters on the edge of the Canyon and has multi-level porches showing off the view. One can sometimes find the endangered California condor soaring around here (we did see a condor at some point in this area, but the margarita affected my memory as to where and when).

By 3:00, there were two of Mary's designs we had not yet seen. One was Phantom Canyon Ranch, at the bottom of the Canyon. We'd have to come back for that. The other is called "Hermit's Rest," again, a stone building that was intended to look like a place a hermit would build; a cozy, simple design. However, there was no "hermit," it was a ruse. It was always meant to be a guest-stop, with gifts and a snack/drink area. The fireplace at Hermit's Rest, too, was amazing; the fireplace itself was big, but what makes it spectacular is the stone continues all around it, making it almost like an enormous stone cave. To add even more awe to this design, Mary added the black "soot" on purpose.

Late afternoon views of the Canyon graced us as we walked around Hermit's Rest and rode back on the tram to South Village. What a day.
We drove back to Williams, munching on my canned dilly beans. Carly was beside herself to see us again; apparently she didn't eat anything all day at the "pet resort," no treats, no kibble, nothing; she was the vision of doom and gloom. Poor babe; her first kennel experience.
What a marvelous day. I am still reliving it. As many times as I visit, I learn something new every time. And to spend the day with Mary, but especially with Laura, well, that made it a day to remember for all time.